Mary knew what was coming as she approached her 13th birthday. And she would have none of it. In a place where babies aren’t recognized as people until they are three “moons” old, because infant mortality is so high, Mary was lucky to have arrived at the ripe old age of 12.
Mary didn’t stick around to be mutilated and married off like so many of her elder peers had been. Instead, Mary ran away to create for herself a different life, one where she could make a real difference to her people.
Female circumcision is still widely, though not universally practiced by the Maasai people in Kenya, according to Wikipedia. It is against the law, but still viewed as essential, even by some girls who may be viewed as unmarriageable if they aren’t circumcised. Most commonly, an outside practitioner using knives and blades fashioned by a blacksmith performs a clitorectomy. The procedure not only leaves women scarred, but also may adversely affect their ability to urinate.
Life for a Maasai woman is not easy. Being seminomadic, their homes are not permanent dwellings. Built by the women on a frame of sticks; mud, cow dung and human urine are used to complete the circular or star shaped homes, called Inkajijik.
Shosho, once Vicki L. Stone, the American founder, of Africa is Life Changing, found Mary in school, living with a Christian religious leader. She was one of only three 8th grade girls in a school with perhaps 100 boys. Shosho challenged the three girls to do well on their final exams, promising that the girl who had the highest score would receive a scholarship to attend the new Africa is Life Changing boarding school for girls, St. Catherine’s School. Having interviewed the three, Shosho anticipated that Mary would be the one who would make the effort to have the highest score.
In fact, Mary earned the highest score on her exam and earned that scholarship spot in the new school. There, she excelled in her subjects and demonstrated her leadership ability. Whenever a teacher asked, “Who would like to…” Shosho says that Mary’s hand was up before the teacher could finish the sentence.
Mary graduated from the high school and went on to college. She has now completed nearly two years at the university and is majoring in education. Shosho says that Mary’s desire is to “Influence her people in many different disciplines.” (Her choice is no doubt a result of the great education she received.)
Africa is Life Changing is an organization that is working to empower women and children in Kenya, battling the AIDS epidemic there through education, medical treatment and community action.
Mary is seen in the photo with Shosho and Africa is Life Changing founder, Sana (Gloria Terry).
Learn more about Africa is Life Changing here.
Mary will leave her mark on the world. Will you?